Something Old, Something New: Army Leader Development in a Dynamic Environment

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A learning organization develops adaptive and innovative members that solve problems and improve the organization. They see it as an integrative process that provides the organization with learning opportunities in everything it does. These learning opportunities, which are the catalyst for experiential learning, drive leader development within organizations. The key word in the Army definition of leader development is process, which provides insight into why so many leaders struggle with leader development within their organizations. Without a culture of learning, many leaders, as stated above, view leader development as a formal program to meet the collective leadership needs of the organization.

Organizations stuck in the mindset of leader development as a series of scheduled events have the perfect excuse for not developing members of the organization—We do not have enough time. This pretext allows leaders to rationalize their actions and fall back on the failsafe justification of focusing on mission requirements. Lack of time is a weak evasion for not developing leaders. The time excuse fails to recognize the critical shared belief organizations must embrace to implement a successful leader development process—opportunities for developmental experiences exist in everything we do.

By developmental experiences, we mean challenging activities that fill an assessed leadership need, either individual or collective. The event or activity should be a stretch experience in that it requires significant effort but is achievable with the help of a meaning-making cycle consisting of observation, feedback, dialogue, reflection, and corrective adjustments by the individual.

The goal in creating developmental experiences is ensuring opportunities align with identified developmental needs, e.

1. Specifically ask for their input.

A Look at Good Leadership. Desportes, Vincent. There is more improvisation. Lowest level — My success — the leader is only worried about their own well-being and success. Are you actively developing your skills to best serve your players, team and people. It is no longer as simple and straightforward as it was in the old days. Concepts of Leadership I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra.

The catalyst for learning is the meaning-making cycle where leaders make sense of their experiences. It is in the execution of this cycle where leader development breaks down for a very unsurprising reason—a failure to communicate. Based on our analysis of multiple Army leader development surveys and studies conducted over the last eight years, there appears to be a clear perception gap between the occurrence of leader development activities and associated adult learning. Field grade officers in general believe they are developing their subordinate leaders through formal and informal developmental programs and events.

They believe their leaders are not developing them. This difference is troubling and we struggled with understanding why it existed. Even if organizations fall into the leader development as a collective program mindset, should not some learning take place during unit leadership classes such as OPDs? A clue to this question lies in our earlier observation that many senior leaders see the process of addressing individual leadership needs as solely a self-development responsibility.

Leaders with this perspective not only fail to understand leader development in the operational domain, they have little understanding of how adults develop as learners. People go through stages of cognitive development as they grow older.

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Thinking patterns change due to a combination of factors primarily linked to the interaction of maturational and environmental variables. Many senior leaders believe leader development is happening because they are setting the conditions for it to occur through scheduled activities such as OPD sessions, staff rides, directed reading lists, and major training events.

Because they are setting the conditions for successful meaning making, senior leaders believe subordinates should be able to reflect on the experiences and take appropriate action to adjust their behavior and thinking—the epitome of personal self-development see Figure 1.

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People tend to believe that similar individuals, i. Psychologists call this cognitive bias or flaw in thinking the false-consensus effect. The answer is they may not be at the same level of cognitive development.

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Something Old, Something New. Army Leader Development in a Dynamic Environment. by Henry A. Military Leadership: From the General to the Specific. Something Old,. Something New. Army Leader Development in a. Dynamic Environment. Henry A. Leonard, J. Michael Polich, Jeffrey D. Peterson,. Ronald E .

As discussed earlier, making sense of an experience requires interpretation of the event to create personal understanding. When the event involves a new and challenging experience, individuals lacking well-developed critical thinking skills struggle. They have no point of reference to analyze the situation.

The result, more often than not, is to discount or ignore the experience because it does not fit existing schema or representations of reality. The junior leaders are making meaning — people always make meaning — but it is incomplete. Consider the young officer returning from his first combat deployment. How does he know if he is learning the right lessons from experience? Meaning making is a cognitive skill, which may take years to develop. This is why more seasoned leaders, especially unit commanders, must be committed to the learning process within the organization.

When combined with reflection and subsequent adjustment decisions by subordinate leaders on needed changes to behavior and thinking, these steps become a completed meaning making cycle for learning see Figure 2. Now that we have a better understanding of the challenges associated with leader development, let us look more closely at the two phases of a successful leader development process.

Chief of Staff of the Army: Leader Development

The purpose of the assessment and integration phase of the leader development process is to create challenging developmental experiences for leaders by integrating individual needs and unit leadership requirements with unit learning opportunities see Figure 3. Assessing individual needs is a collaborative effort involving supervisors and subordinate leaders.

Ideally, they served in a similar assignment in the past and are familiar with the leadership challenges associated with the position. The Leadership Requirements Model LRM from ADRP is a useful reference for the supervisor to use in preparing for the conversation, but its generic list of attributes and competencies should serve only as a general guide.

The purpose of the two-way discussion is to assess the overall competence of the junior leader, not to measure discrete competencies. The second aspect of individual needs—personal development goals and desires—can be very private in nature so supervisors must have a solid foundation of trust established with junior leaders to initiate the conversation. The need for trust underscores the importance of learning organizations and the shared beliefs that leaders are committed to organizational learning and all members of the organization have a voice in the learning process. Unless these beliefs are part of the unit psyche, a meaningful conversation on personal goals and desires probably will not occur.

A discussion of personal goals could lead to areas that appear to have little military relevance a love of art or a desire to attend law school for example. This would be shortsighted. Supervisors should acknowledge and document goals and desires, maintaining a record in case learning opportunities arise that call for these unique talents. More importantly, from the perspective of life-long learning, supervisors have the responsibility to assist junior leaders in developing personal self-development plans that recognize and integrate their goals and desires.

This includes discussions on potential broadening opportunities for training, education, and future assignments.

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Unit leadership requirements generally fall into three categories. The first is an overarching need for adaptive, innovative, and self-directed leaders who think critically and creatively. This means leaders who embrace the principles of mission command and operate independently in a dynamic environment, responding effectively to changing situations with new and creative ideas to solve problems.

The second category focuses on collectively shared leader competencies identified and assessed by commanders to meet explicit organizational needs or goals associated with mission-essential tasks, leader certification programs, or other unit requirements.


Units typically address these leader competencies with structured learning opportunities such as leader classes for Combat Training Center rotations, certification programs for new unit officers, or battalion professional reading programs. The third category is more explicit. Without offering much detail, Army developers explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR — Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.

The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army officials said. Further details are not available, developers say. You May Also Like:.

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Worst Submarine of All Time. Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. Thermal targeting sights, as demonstrated during now famous Gulf War tank battles including Abrams tanks against Russian-built T, can create range mismatches enabling tanks to destroy enemy tanks without themselves been seen.

A report in Popular Mechanics earlier this year, by Kyle Mizokami, says the Ts new, now-in-development 3UBK21 Sprinter missile can hit ranges more than 7 miles, basically tripling the current 2. The United States military is an early adopter and highly visible champion of both unmanned aerial vehicles and all types of robotics such as the portable and throwable robots used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Recently, the U. Army added driverless trucks to its expanding robotic technologies. Earlier this year, the U. Army, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, demonstrated self-driving vehicle technology designed to help keep soldiers out of hostile environments. In its demo, the AMAS system successfully negotiated around pedestrians, intersections, and oncoming traffic. Watch the video:. This multiplatform kit integrates low-cost sensors and control systems onto U.